Fauci defends past recommendations following conservative attacks

Greg Nash

America’s top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci on Friday defended some of his past recommendations on the coronavirus, arguing that science changes over time.

Fauci’s remarks about the pandemic and guidance on steps Americans should take to help limit infection have shifted since the beginning of the outbreak as experts learn more about COVID-19.

But Fauci has faced criticism in recent weeks as President Trump, administration officials and Trump allies in the media attempt to deflect blame from the White House response to the pandemic. 

Earlier this month, the White House sent out a memo detailing “wrong” statements Fauci, the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had made about the pandemic. For example, the memo pointed to comments he made in March that healthy people should not be wearing masks. 

“As the data changes, then you change the recommendation,” Fauci said Friday during a Washington Post Live interview. 

“Back then, the critical issue was to save the masks for the people who really needed them because it was felt there was a shortage of masks,” Fauci said. “Also, we didn’t realize at all the extent of asymptomatic spread.”

Fauci said comments of his have been “taken out of context,” such as when he told the public at the very start of the outbreak that people don’t have to change their behavior.

“People who say that’s a mistake leave out the second part of my sentence,” he said, which was that the situation could change dramatically and quickly. 

Fauci also said Trump’s coronavirus briefings this week, his first regular ones on the subject in months, have been helpful.

“I think that they have been helpful now, and also they have been short and crisp, which is good when you’re trying to get a message across,” Fauci said. 

“The president has gone out there and is saying things now that I think are important. Wearing masks, staying away from crowded places,” he added. 

The White House has been trying for months to shift responsibility for the pandemic response from the federal government to states in order to focus on reopening the economy and sending kids back to school. 

But in the face of a U.S. death toll that is approaching 150,000 and as infections spread nearly uncontrollably across dozens of states, the administration has sought to present a new, more somber tone.

After months of downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, dismissing the importance of wearing a mask and mocking some who wear them, Trump this week threw his support behind Americans wearing masks.

“We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask,” Trump said during one of his coronavirus briefings. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They’ll have an effect, and we need everything we can get.”

Tags Anthony Fauci Coronavirus Donald Trump

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